Archive for December 8th, 2006

Dark Energy and Dark Matter – The Results of Flawed Physics?

Science, Uncategorized, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Dec 08 2006

There are few scientific concepts as intriguing and mysterious as dark energy and dark matter, said to make up as much as 95 percent of all the energy and matter in the universe. And even though scientists don’t know what either is and have little evidence to prove they exist, dark energy and dark matter are two of the biggest research problems in physics.

But what if they were conceived in error?

This is what three Italian physicists have recently asked. In a paper in the August 3 online edition of the Institute of Physics’ peer-reviewed Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, they put forth the idea that scientists were forced to propose the existence of dark energy and dark matter because they were, and still are, working with incorrect gravitational theory.

The group suggests an alternative theory of gravity in which dark energy and dark matter are effects – illusions, in a sense – created by the curvature of spacetime (the bending of space and time caused by extremely massive objects, like galaxies). Their theory does not require the existence of dark energy and dark matter.

“Our proposal implies that the ‘correct’ theory of gravity may be one based solely on directly observed astronomical data,” said lead author Salvatore Capozziello, a theoretical physicist at the University of Naples, to PhysOrg.com.

Dark energy and dark matter were originally conceived to explain, respectively, the accelerating expansion of the universe (despite the tendency of gravity to push matter together) and the discrepancy between the amount of matter scientists expect to observe in the universe but have not yet found. Astronomers suggested the existence of dark matter when they noticed something odd about spiral galaxies: Stars at the middle and edge of a spiral galaxy rotate just as fast as stars near the very center. But according to Newtonian mechanics (the physics of bodies in motion), stars further away from the galactic center should rotate more slowly. Scientists thus assumed that some sort of “dark” matter, not observable by emitted light, must be boosting the total gravity of the galaxy, giving the stars extra rotational speed.

We can show that no ‘exotic’ ingredients have to be added to fill the gap between theory and observations,” said Capozziello.

In their paper, he and his co-authors demonstrate this using data from 15 well-studied galaxies. Among this data was each galaxy’s “rotation curve,” a graph that plots the rotational speed of the stars in the galaxy as a function of their distance from the galaxy’s center. These curves were successfully fit to curves produced using the new theory. Since these 15 galaxies are believed to be dominated by dark matter, fitting their rotation curves using this new gravity model is strong evidence to support an alternative theory of gravity.

Despite this, the notion that dark matter and dark energy are “wrong” is potentially very unpopular. Capozziello and his colleagues are aware that a new theory of gravity impacts the dynamics of the universe as scientists now understand them.

“Any extended theories of gravity must be tested on all the astrophysical scales, ranging from the Solar System to galaxies to galaxy clusters, and all of cosmology,” said Capozziello. “Performing these tests is the cornerstone of our research program.”

Citation: J. Cosmol. Astropart. Phys. 08 (2006) 001.

By Laura Mgrdichian, Copyright 2006 PhysOrg.com

The Apostle Paul’s Tomb Found?

Religious, Uncategorized | Posted by Chris Parker
Dec 08 2006

Archaeologists working for the Vatican have unearthed a sarcophagus containing what they believe are the remains of St Paul the Apostle.The tomb dates back to at least AD390 and was found in a crypt under a basilica in Rome.

It has long been thought that the crypt contained the tomb of St Paul but the altar had hidden it.

St Paul was an influential early Christian who travelled widely in the Mediterranean area in the 1st Century.

Excavations at the site began in 2002 and were completed last month.

Ancient pilgrims

The basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls is the largest church in Rome after St Peter’s.

For the past three years, archaeologists have been excavating underneath the altar to remove two huge slabs of marble and now, for the first time in almost 1,700 years, the sarcophagus of St Paul is on public view.

The original inscription on the top reads: Paulo Apostolo Mart – Latin for “Paul Apostle Martyr”.

The holes through which the ancient pilgrims would have pushed pieces of cloth to touch the relic are clearly visible.

“What we can see at the moment through a grating, a new grating that’s been put there, is the side of the sarcophagus of Paul which seems to be white marble-like material,” said Father Edmund Power, abbot of the nearby Benedictine monastery.

St Paul travelled widely through Asia Minor, Greece and Rome in the 1st Century.

His letters to the early churches, found in the Bible’s New Testament, are arguably some of the most influential on Christian thinking.

St Paul is said to have been beheaded in AD65 by the Roman Emperor Nero.

His sarcophagus will be on public view for the foreseeable future but the church is yet to rule out the possibility that one day the interior itself will be opened and examined.